Monday, November 27, 2017

Nature vs. Nurture

Last week I attended a workshop whose central topic was strengths based leadership. The first item on the agenda was an introductory round where all attendees were asked to present themselves and answer a few questions, including "what I am - at least a little - good at". The facilitator explained that the "at least a little" modifier had proved successful as, in his experience, many people struggled to talk about something they thought they were good at to a group, not wanting to boast. My instinctive reaction was: "Come on, that's a little exaggerated!" until I realised that I used to be exactly like that, inwardly cringing when asked to talk about my achievements. 10 years of working in an American corporate environment had not only erased everything but a little trace of that behaviour, but almost had me forget that this was something your average Central European seriously struggled with. Constantly talking about how awesome you are might not come natural to us, but once you have had to do it regularly in order to "survive" Monday to Friday it becomes second nature and you almost become impatient with those people who think its natural for the person who grades you to recognise your superpowers without you having to constantly highlight them. Which I still, regardless of my long exposure to the opposite practise, believe is actually the sign of a good people manager.

Monday, November 20, 2017

It Could Be So Easy

Wouldn't it be great if you could just count on nice, clean, odourless toilets for free whenever you need one? Newsflash, what unfortunately is a utopia for Austria and many European countries is in fact already reality in Australia and many Asian countries (Japan, South Korea, Singapore). In Vienna, I would only ever use a toilet in a metro or railway station or other public place if I absolutely HAD to, knowing that they will inevitably be smelly and/or dirty and likely cost 0,50 € to use them. In Sydney or Tokyo, however, you will find spotlessly clean and absolutely pleasant toilets everywhere. Australia definitely is the undisputed number one of my personal public toilet chart as unlike the above mentioned Asian countries it only has Western style toilets in its cubicles. This high Australian standard never seizes to pleasantly surprise me and I feel like a peasant coming from a third world country as we are nowhere near this standard in Europe. I pity Australians when they encounter our poor standards for the first time.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Minimalists. I Admire them From Afar

I am currently in the last week (insert sad emoji!) of my Mini Grand Tour of Australia. Being the little consumer goods victim that I am, I have seen oh so many things on the way that I might have just picked up and stuffed into my suitcase if a) I was not accompanied by my Mum who I knew would have disapproved of half of my impulse buys (you really always stay a child with your parents, don't you?) and b) did not have to self-discipline until our final stop in Sydney when I could take my second item of check-in luggage for the return trip out of my monster Rimowa suitcase. As we all know, being allowed to check in not one, but 2 pieces of luggage on Star Alliance flights is my favourite perk of enjoying Frequent Flyer status. I love it and at the same time am mildly disgusted by my inability to travel light. I really don't like travelling with cabin baggage only as I prefer not to have anything to put into an overhead locker at all, leaving the space to business men with their trolleys. Instead of limiting myself to carry-on luggage only, I have perfected another "technique" over the years. Let's call it "Wardrobe Decluttering Holiday Style". Half of the garments you see below have already been discarded between Bangkok and Brisbane. I collect frayed knickers and threadbare socks as well as "mehp" clothes I would have thrown into the textiles collection bins at home for months and it gives me great satisfaction to create space (for souvenirs) in my suitcase whenever I am on a longer vacation.
It is always the same: I get excited and start packing my suitcase pretty early. I pat myself on the shoulder for only taking the bare minimum. Then I worry I have packed to little in fact. Followed by realisation that it is probably way too much and I start taking out a few things. When on vacation, I will inevitably realise that I have taken too many pairs of shoes and, randomly, 3 lip balms with SPF, while I have forgotten my mini scissors or some other important item. I am clearly out of practice with business trips when I had everything down to perfection. 
I think I'll just resign myself to the fact once more that in this life I won't become a minimalist, but I will stick to my konmari packing method that allows me easy access to everything and does not require hanging and ironing of clothes. Better than nothing.
Whether I will ever understand how "just a few t-shirts" can add up to 20 kilos remains unlikely and the orange tag of shame will therefore be a permanent fixture:

Monday, November 06, 2017

Your Bars, Your Temples, Your Massage Parlours

I am writing this in Sydney (and when this post goes live I will hopefully be near Uluru) that welcomed me with rain, just like on my previous two arrivals here. Before that, Mum and I were in Bangkok for 2 nights. It was a really lovely visit and I am so glad we chose this fascinating city as our outbound stopover destination. I had actually asked Mum which of many options to divide our long journey to Australia she would prefer and she chose Bangkok.
When I first visited Australia in 2011, I also travelled via Bangkok, but only experienced its (huge and very nice) airport. I have to say that I did so with quite a bit of apprehension and the fact that the Austrian airlines cabin crew reminds you that the import or export of drugs gets you the death penalty did not ease that. I suppose I have read one too many articles or watched one too many documentaries about allegedly innocent people whom someone abused as a drug courier. Let me just say I was glad my suitcase did not have any outer pockets...In addition to that mild paranoia, I had major prejudices that were again fuelled by media consumption.
For the longest time, to me, Thailand in general and Bangkok in particular stood only for one thing: sex tourism of the worst kind, where (ugly) Westerners exploit young girls or boys in the worst kind of way or return home with a wife several decades younger than themselves. I readily admit that this was pure ignorance on my part and while Tokyo, Seoul or Hong Kong always represented the cool Asia, Bangkok was "Third World Asia" in my head, with the only other association apart from abusive sexual relations being counterfeit luxury products. I did find the latter in the night market close to our hotel and also saw more than my fair share of explicit bar signs and dubious looking pills and sex toys being sold by the side of the road (not mentioning men that looked "the part"), but I also saw an infrastructure as modern and efficient as the one in Tokyo, clean streets and buildings, extremely friendly locals and overall a surprisingly international vibe. Those shopping streets could just as well have been in Tokyo, Seoul or Hong Kong. While Bangkok never made it to my list of must-see-places for the longest time, I have always been a big fan of Murray Head's iconic One Night in Bangkok (where the title of this post is borrowed from). Now that I ended up spending not one, but two nights there, I wish it had been more!
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